NHC supporter Locata launches two new enhancements

Locata has launched two new enhancements designed to make the management of housing applicants even more efficient and effective.

Both enhancements were flagged up and discussed at the Virtual National Users Group in July and are now available to order.

Document Uploads

The document upload enhancement is already being used by several schemes across the country and is now available to all Locata customers.

The enhancement allows applicants to upload supporting documents at any time through the scheme’s public website. This means the documents can be uploaded on applicant’s personal laptops and PCs as well as any mobile devices using the public site’s Web App.

Online application form changes for applicants are configurable with warning messages and are uploaded directly to the back office to await verification.

All the documents submitted by an applicant appear as one journal entry and the officer can easily see what the document is and which household member it belongs to.

Proof of ID

Locata is working with identity document verification experts TrustID (https://www.trustid.co.uk/), to deliver an enhancement that allows councils to check the validity of photo ID.

Officers would use the Proof of ID enhancement at the point of offer when they want to validate a customer.  A message would appear saying that photo ID must be submitted.

Once the photo ID document has been submitted, a message will be returned saying that the ID was either valid or not. Officers will also have access to a “show details” button that will open up a report of the ID used.

To find out more, please contact Locata on info@locata.org.uk

A Document Validation Report from TrustID showing whether the ID submitted was valid or not

NHC upcoming events

September proves to be a busy month for the Northern Housing Consortium’s engagement activity, with a string of free webinars to support our members across a range of issues.

Gathered here in one place for you to look over, please do sign up or pass on to colleagues you think may be interested.

#OurNorth Net Zero

#OurNorth – Net Zero is the Northern Housing Consortium’s programme of webinars aiming to build the confidence and knowledge the social housing sector needs to lead on making decarbonisation a reality across northern England.

Come to hear from key speakers, good practice from across the NHC membership, and discuss with colleagues in a safe setting the various aspect of the Net Zero challenge.

Climate Emergencies – Ambition, Policy, Action

Wednesday 9th September 2020 – 13.00 – 14.30

Over 60 of the North’s Local Authorities have declared climate emergencies. At the same time, the region’s Housing Associations are also beginning to develop their own bold climate plans. As we all know, the challenge now is to turn this vital wave of ambition into clear local strategies.

At our inaugural session of the #OurNorth – Net Zero webinar series we’ll be joined by key speakers from inside and outside the social housing sector to discuss the practical ways Local Authorities and Housing Associations are transitioning from ambition to action – building on the strengths of local assets and centring communities to ensure climate resilience.

Organisations involved: UK100, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Scottish Government Social Research Team, Lancaster City Council, Thirteen Group

Understanding Your Stock – Asset Management & Energy Efficiency

Wednesday 16th September 2020, 10.00 – 11.30

Achieving Net Zero has made housing organisations think about their homes, and their Asset Management Strategies, in new ways. We all understand the implications of doing nothing, but the desire to ‘get it right first time’ weighs heavily on our minds.

This session will hear from those working directly with the asset management implications of energy efficiency. Attendees will hear about how to develop and implement a net-zero orientated strategy, to the technical considerations of refurbishment.

Organisations involved: Campbell Tickell, URBED (Urbanism Environment and Design), Halton Housing Group, Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy

Financing Energy Efficiency

Wednesday 23rd September 2020, 13.00 – 14.30

Developing new net-zero housing as well as making the investments required to deliver decarbonisation in existing homes will require a mixture of public and private finance.

To do so, the social housing sector is beginning to look more closely at demonstrating their environmental credentials to growing investor interest.

Financing Energy Efficiency will look closely at the sector’s increasing interest in ESG Reporting – effectively highlighting and reporting strong performance around Environmental, Social and Governance measures that aligns with, and attracts, private finance increasingly looking to support ‘positive impact’ investments.

Organisations involved: The Good Economy – representing the Social Housing ESG Reporting Working Group, Natwest, Housing Association colleagues involved in the project (TBC)

Retrofit Part One – Scaling Up Supply and Demand, and Fabric First

29th September 2020, 10:00 – 11:30

In this first session we will be discussing the national, sectoral challenges of scaling up retrofit projects before looking at some good practice case studies from across the NHC membership, particularly around fabric first techniques.

Retrofit Part Two will be held the following week, 7th October 2020, 10.00 – 11.30, and will focus on Home Energy Systems.

Full Agenda TBC.

Our Other Events

How Will The Future of Social Housing Outpace the Digital Revolution?

Thursday 3rd September 2020, 11.00

The effects of the coronavirus will be felt for many years to come. The world is changing, and the way in which we work and organisations deliver services to customers has changed, and will continue to change at a dramatic pace. What seemed new and different six months ago has quickly become the norm – rapid changes to customer and staff expectations are ahead as technology and life moves on.

NHC is delighted to announce that Steven Van Belleghem, an internationally renowned futurologist and keynote speaker, will present an interactive webinar with members

Health & Building Safety in Housing Conference

Thursday 17th September 2020, 10.30

Following the success of previous years and excellent feedback, the NHC’s fifth annual Health and Building Safety in Housing Conference will run on 17th September 2020

This must attend Webinar for Health and Building Safety professionals will focus on managing risk, bringing about culture change to put Health and Safety at the heart of the business and provide updates from the Health & Safety Executive and other sector experts.

Northern Youth Summit 2020 – A festival of ideas

Thursday 24th September 2020, 10.00

As we emerge from lockdown, how can the Housing sector ensure young people’s voices and heard as we shape a new norm? Join NHC and Clarion Futures as we welcome Beatfreeks in sharing the results of their Take the Temperature national youth survey and share ideas on how we take young people’s ideas forward.

The day will be split into five 30 minute sessions as we discuss the five ‘trends’ that were uncovered in the research and begin a discussion on the ways we can action the challenges uncovered by young people.

Decent Homes for Ageing Well

Tuesday 29th September 2020, 10.30

The evidence is unequivocal – warm, safe and accessible homes are critical to health and wellbeing. One of the major causes of death and injury amongst older people are falls in the home, whilst cold homes exacerbate a range of health problems including respiratory illnesses and increase the risk of  a stroke or heart attack.

This webinar will bring together those with specialist knowledge in the fields of housing, population ageing, health and regeneration to forge new connections and link practice, evidence and policy.

The Mental Health & Wellbeing Response for Supporting Staff and Customers

Wednesday 30th September 2020, 10.00

Each of us will experience the pandemic differently. The challenge for senior leaders in housing is to have now a clear plan of how best to address the mental and wellbeing impact both in a strategic and operational way.

No doubt each of us will directly hear and see of the effects of the pandemic on staff both at the front line or because of family stories.  Across communities there may already be visible signs in food bank queues or hearing of tenants having to choose between income protection and tenancy obligations.

This interactive webinar will focus on the key strategic actions for senior leaders at this time and what this may mean in operational implementation terms

 

 

 

Team NHC get carbon literate

As part of our commitment to supporting members to improve homes and lives through the decarbonisation of our existing housing stock, the Northern Housing Consortium team has been getting carbon literate!

Carbon literacy is an awareness of the carbon dioxide costs and impacts of everyday activities, and the ability and motivation to reduce emissions, on an individual, community and organisational basis.

Great Places Housing Group provided the training via a series of webinars – the first time Great Places had delivered this training online, rather than as a one-day course.

Commenting, NHC Executive Director (Policy and Public Affairs) Brian Robson said,

“We want all our staff to understand climate change and what they can do to make a difference. This is especially important to us as we begin to deliver #OurNorth Net Zero. It was great to be able to work with one of our members on this training, and I’d really recommend the Great Places team to other organisations looking to get carbon literate.”

For more information on Carbon Literacy, and a directory of trainers, see https://carbonliteracy.com/organisation/

What do the Government’s White Paper Planning Reforms mean for housing in the North?

With a Government commitment to level up the regions of the UK, we have scrutinised the White Paper: Planning for the Future for signs of opportunities for housing growth and renewal in the North.

The following brief summary of the proposals is no substitute for reading the 84-page document itself, as well as the accompanying consultation on changes to the current planning system, but it tries to set out  how the proposals might work in Northern regions.

The NHC will be responding to the consultation on behalf of our membership – details of how to contribute to our response can be found at the end of this article.

The complex proposals fall under three key sections or pillars all underpinned with themes of community involvement, ‘beautiful’ design, modernisation, use of data, digital and the most important factor – speed, with planning being singled out, unjustifiably, as the cause of low build-out rates.

The first consultation question asks: “What three words do you associate most with the planning system in England?”  There must be a hope in Government that replies includes the mantra  ‘Build Build Build’ because the proposals are firmly rooted in the headline objective of delivering 300,000 new homes each year and a total of 1 million new homes by the end of the current Parliament.

The White Paper outlines 24 proposals with three Pillars and 26 consultation questions with the whole paper very much geared towards community involvement in planning.

Pillar One – Planning for Development

The headline concept in this section is the zoning of land, an approach intended to ensure enough land comes into the system over the Local Plan period – which will be reduced from 15 down to 10 years.

Land will be designated into three categories:

Growth areas (sites suitable for substantial development, which will have outline planning permission):

Renewal areas (sites suitable for development with an enhanced presumption in favour for the purposes identified in the plan); and

Protected areas, including Green Belt where, as the name suggests, development is restricted.

This aim is to establish a simpler framework with decisions determined by clear rules for what can and cannot be done.

The White Paper maintains a plan-led system but proposes to simplify Local Plans with maps used to outline where the three new development categories will be located, and with standardised development management policies outlined in a revised NPPF. In the process, the Sustainability Appraisal will be abolished, the Duty to Cooperate test will be removed and the deliverability assessment will be reduced. To support the transition a statutory duty is proposed for local authorities to adopt a new Local Plan by a specified date – either 30 months from the legislation being brought into force, or 42 months for local planning authorities who have adopted a Local Plan within the previous three years.

new nationally determined, binding housing requirement is proposed that local planning authorities would have to deliver through their Local Plans, applying a new standard methodology to divide up a national annual target of 300,000 homes.  The White Paper states: “It may be appropriate for Mayors of combined authorities to oversee the strategic distribution of the requirement in a way that alters the distribution of numbers, and this would be allowed for.”  It is not clear how this will be achieved in what will be a stream-lined plan preparation process.

Local communities will be consulted from the very beginning of the planning process by using online maps and data.  Neighbourhood planning will be retained but it is not clear how this will be aligned with significant expectations on high volume development.

In Growth areas (suitable for substantial development) an outline permission for the principle of development would be conferred by adoption of the Local Plan.   This light touch, fast-tracked system which grants automatic planning permission for a type of building within the designated zone places a great deal of weight on local design codes to uphold development standards and energy efficiency.  Moving permission to the plan making stage will have the effect of reducing democratic oversight through planning committees.

The contribution of planning to the achievement of net zero is perhaps the biggest omission in the document. Tree-lined streets are almost the only nod to a green future for residential areas. There is far more emphasis in the document on the aesthetic appearance of a building than the carbon emissions generated from it.  Yet, the planning and regulatory regime must be able to enforce at the outset the efficiency of a new building at the design stage.

While proposals for a zonal approach refers to flood risk, there is no mention of how zero carbon infrastructure will be treated within the different zonal areas.  In designating land for development 10 years hence, councils will need to know where sites will be needed for renewable energy clusters now otherwise opportunities will be lost. The assumption is that local and national design codes, and national development management policy will address these critical issues.

Pillar Two – Planning for Beautiful and Sustainable Places

Pillar Two focuses on binding design codes and a planning system which is rooted in local preferences and character with potential use of “pattern books” for different building types.

“A fast-track for beauty” is promised through the NPPF. The Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission ‘Living with Beauty’ report should perhaps be read alongside the White Paper[1]. There will be a new design body and local authorities will have a chief officer for design and place-making.

This section references a commitment to net-zero by 2050 alongside meeting the Future Homes Standard by 2025. The Government has not yet issued a response to the Future Homes Standard consultation which closed on 7 February 2020.  Greater clarity around this standard will be critical when the Government responds in the autumn.

Pillar Three – Planning for Infrastructure and Connected Places

The big news in Pillar Three is that the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and the Section 106 planning obligations are to be replaced by a new nationally set Infrastructure Levy, which will be a fixed proportion of the scheme’s development value. Strategic Community Infrastructure Levies in combined authorities, “could be retained” as part of the Infrastructure Levy to support the funding of strategic infrastructure.

The new flat-rate charge would be set nationally at either a single rate or area-specific rates and would be charged on the final value of a development.  The new levy will apply to permitted developments which will address some concerns, given that additional residential units create additional pressure on local infrastructure. But the onwards march of permitted development rights will give bigger concerns around the quality of housing with the White Paper seemingly disregarding the Governments own commissioned research showing that “only 22.1% of dwelling units created through PD would meet the nationally described space standards, compared to 73.4% of units created through full planning permission”.[2]  The White Paper follows on the heels of new rules announced on 21 July, which will come into effect by September, meaning full planning applications will not be required to demolish and rebuild unused buildings as homes.

The Infrastructure Levy includes a value-based minimum threshold below which the levy is not charged, to prevent low viability development becoming unviable, reflecting average build costs per square metre.  It is unclear how Northern local authorities should deliver infrastructure where values fall below the proposed threshold for the new Levy.

The proposal is to “sweep away months of negotiation of Section 106 agreements” however negotiations between developers and councils are one of the only ways social rented homes are built.  Removing this route without certainly about the nature of replacement is potentially a hammer blow to the provision of social rented housing.  The White Paper makes no mention of broader investment in social housing and provides no detail on the role of local authority-led housing delivery.

There are significant differences between regions in the value of affordable housing and other developer contributions with the Northern regions seeing the lowest value of planning obligations (including affordable housing) and CIL. The levy may give greater certainty over contributions but the way to regulate this between councils and developers without a Section 106 agreement to provide affordable housing and ensuring a mix of tenures, delivered to the right quality and in the right places, will be critical.

The provision of increased grant funding for genuinely affordable homes to rent may become all the more important.

Changes to the current planning system

A separate consultation document sets out proposals on changing the current planning system. The four main proposals are:

The standard method for assessing local housing need

This section states: “the Government has heard powerful representations that the current formula underestimates demand for housing in the growing cities in the Northern Powerhouse by being based on historic trends.” So far, so good.

The standard method, introduced in 2018 was flawed from the beginning, and undercut the aspirations of Northern authorities with ambitious growth plans.

A revised Standard Method will establish a nationally-set method for setting local housing requirements in effect distributing 300,000 homes per annum across local authorities, and it will be the responsibility of local authorities to allocate sufficient land for housing.

The big change is that the new method incorporates existing housing stock into the methodology, as a way of balancing out some of the issues identified from relying on household projections alone.  This will help boost numbers in areas with low population projections as seen in some Northern areas.

The document states this change will mean a new national total of 337,000 homes a year as against 270,000 under the current approach.

The table below compares how the new proposed method stacks up against current local plans, recent housing delivery, and the current method.

LPA Current

Local Plan Requirement

Average Delivery (last 3 years) Current Standard Method Proposed new Standard Method
Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside 10,048 20,427 17,134 18,668
Central Liverpool 1,414 4,833 3,414 3,439
Great Manchester 4,612 9,459 10,533 10,243
Cumbria and Lancashire 6,782 6,358 3,465 5,963
North East 5,237 10,095 6,262 7,288
Yorkshire & Humber 19,335 19,084 16,395 17,870

Source: Lichfields calculations based on proposed standard method paragraphs 23-39 of the consultation

The current Standard Method was never expected to be in place for long. It was clear at the  outset that the methodology, using household projections in isolation, would boost the housing requirement in the South and East, while depressing it in the North contradicting wider economic policies such as the industrial strategy and Northern Powerhouse which aim to rebalance the UK economy.

The change won’t affect all local authorities equally but looks set to be more compatible with the objective of ‘levelling up’ the North, although still below the assessed level of need for the North.

First Homes

A minimum of 25% of affordable housing secured through developer contributions will be expected to be discounted market housing for first-time buyers.  Government had already announced separately that it will begin making planning policy changes through the NPPF to deliver this policy. First Homes are now clearly expected to take priority over other forms of affordable home ownership. This could have a serious negative impact on the supply of affordable rent and social rent homes.

The response to the Government’s First Homes consultation showed that 47% of respondents thought that prioritising First Homes would have a detrimental effect on the delivery of other affordable housing tenures. 17% of respondents said regional disparities in land values need to be considered.[3]

It is vital that First Homes are provided alongside rather than instead of other types of affordable housing. This again emphasises the importance of other funding to support the provision of new affordable rented homes.

Supporting small and medium sized developers

To support SMEs in the medium term during economic recovery from Covid-19, the document proposes reducing the burden of contributions on SMEs for more sites for a time-limited period and there is encouragement for SMEs delivering MMC.

Permission in Principle

The document proposes that land allocated for substantive development in Local Plans should be automatically granted a form of permission of principle so that the principle of development is established, and subsequent consents only focus on detailed technical matters. This would also involve introducing a revised fee structure, at lower cost, to incentivise use.

Following this consultation, the Government aim to introduce amending regulations this Autumn, with the regulations expected to come into force by the end of the calendar year. Changes to the fee structure would require separate changes to the Planning Fees Regulations.

Resourcing local planning departments

All of the proposals pose an additional burden on local authorities.  There will be an impact on funding for the preparation and review of Local Plans and design codes, digitisation and enforcement activities. Digitised plan-making will be expensive.

The White Paper states that for the Spending Review, “the Government will prepare a specific, investable proposal for modernising planning systems in local government” and, “we will also bring forward proposals later this year for improving the resourcing of planning departments more broadly.”

Research for the Northern Housing Consortium[4] shows that local authority housing and planning services in the North of England have been disproportionately impacted by reductions in capacity over the last decade.

The change in average net spend per local authority in the North between 2010/11 and 2018/19 stood at -54% for housing services; and -65% for planning and development services. Comparatively, across the rest of England, this difference stood at -34% for housing services and -50% for planning and development services.

This loss of capacity not only impacts on councils ability to secure local housing and planning ambitions, but also undermine the potential of achieving Government’s own housing ambitions.

There is a promise of “a comprehensive resources and skills strategy for the planning sector” but a reversal of the decline will need to happen before new skills and expertise can be developed.

It is paramount that the government provides sufficient resources to local authorities to administer the reforms. Without serious resourcing the reforms could slow down housebuilding and critical issues including decarbonisation and climate resilience will not be fully addressed.

What’s next

To make the best of the radical proposals, we need to make sure that the final process works for Northern councils, housing associations and ALMOs. This means that some consensus across the North about how the proposals can be sensibly be refined is needed.

The NHC will be responding to the consultation, and we welcome your views on the proposals.

  • If you are interested in taking part in a roundtable discussion in September (date to be confirmed) please confirm your interest by email to brown@northern-consortium.org.uk
  • If you are submitting your own response, please share your submission with us so that we can ensure our response reflects the views of our membership. It would be helpful to have this by 24 September 2020 (if replying to the ‘Changes to the current planning system’ consultation).

Of particularly interest in responding to the consultation would be your views on:

  • Reform of Developer Contributions and the introduction of ‘the Infrastructure Levy’
  • Changes to the standard method for assessing housing numbers in strategic plans
  • Proposals for improving the resourcing of planning departments
  • Impact of First Homes
How to respond:

MHCLG White Paper Planning for the Future is available here

The consultation closes on 29th October 2020

MHCLG Changes to the current planning system is available here

The consultation closes on 1st October 2020

If you wish to make an enquiry about the information contained in the article please contact Karen Brown 0191 566 1021 karen.brown@northern-consortium.org.uk

[1] The report of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission Living with Beauty January 2020

[2] Research into the quality standard of homes delivered through change of use permitted development rights UCL / University of Liverpool July 2020

[3] First Homes Summary of Responses to the Consultation August 2020

[4] Hincks, S. et al (2020 forthcoming) A view from the North : Understanding Local Authority Housing and Planning Capacity in an Era of Austerity. CaCHE, Sheffield.

#OurNorth Net Zero partners

#OurNorth Net Zero partners

Momentum is growing around the NHC’s #OurNorth Net Zero programme, we are very proud to announce our five partners who are enabling the ground-breaking programme designed to help our members decabonise their housing stock. We’re delighted to welcome:

  • Halton Housing
  • Liverpool City Region Housing Associations
  • Thirteen
  • Together Group
  • Consortium Procurement

Their generous support means we can deliver the #OurNorth Net Zero programme which will:

  • Build confidence, knowledge and connections amongst our members through our events and member engagement activity
  • Contribute to securing the policy and resources necessary to decarbonise the North’s existing homes.

A program of #OurNorth Net Zero events kicks off in September addressing the multitude of net zero-related topics and culminates in our AGM  – Summit on 3rd November – which will carry decarbonisation as its key theme.

Our first of two pieces of research is with IPPR North who will demonstrate the jobs and skills potential of retrofit in the North of England, with results being presented at the aforementioned Summit on 3rd November.

Our second piece of research with NAREC will result in an evidence tool available early 2021 which will demonstrate the relative costs and benefits of interventions in different types of homes in the North. This tool will assess the potential interventions which could be applied to up to 30 representative archetypes, setting out the relative costs and benefits, including fuel bill savings for tenants.

Speaking about the partners Northern Housing Consortium Chief Executive Tracy Harrison said:

“We’re incredibly grateful to Consortium Procurement, Halton Housing, Liverpool City Region Housing Associations, Thirteen and Together Housing Group who all recognise the significance of decarbonisation and are willing to partner with us on a programme that will help the wider industry.

“Decarbonisation has the potential to change lives and have a lasting, positive effect on our industry, and our partners are thought leaders who recognise this and share our vision of a Net Zero North.”

We know that for NHC members, it’s not if we decarbonise our homes and neighbourhoods, but how. We want to help you make this happen.  All members can book unlimited free places at our weekly series of webinars in the run-up to our flagship annual Northern Housing Summit. We also have two exciting research projects kicking off.  Keep up to date with #OurNorth Net Zero at https://www.northern-consortium.org.uk/influencing/ournorth/

Green Home Grants: News on launch of £2bn scheme

Yesterday Government provided detail on how to access the Green Home Grant scheme, which was announced as part of the Chancellor’s Summer Economic Statement last month. The Government confirmed the grant programme is scheduled to go live towards the end of September, and also opened bidding for a £500m local authority-led component.

The £2bn scheme has been split into a £1.5bn Voucher Scheme and a £500m Local Authority Delivery (LAD) scheme for low-income, and low EPC households.  Social landlords will be eligible for both schemes within the application rules.

Home-owners, including landlords will be able to apply for two thirds of the cost of home improvements with grants capped at £5,000. Meanwhile, low income households will qualify for grants worth up to £10,000 to support energy efficiency upgrades.

Government has stated it expects the scheme to deliver improvements for over 600,000 households, while creating an estimated 100,000 jobs in green construction.

Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme

The voucher scheme aims to stimulate demand for energy efficiency upgrades in existing private homes.

The scheme can be used for primary measures (such as insulation or low carbon heat) and secondary measures (e.g. draught proofing and windows). Households must install at least one of the primary measures to qualify for funding.

Full eligibility details can be found in the information from Government, but councils, housing associations, shared owners and private rented sector landlords are all eligible for the main voucher scheme. A low-income element is only open to owner-occupiers and park homes.

Tradespeople are required to sign up to the TrustMark accreditation scheme ahead of the launch next month – this is intended to prevent poor quality/unnecessary installations.

The Simple Energy Advice (SEA) service, set up following the Each Home Counts review, will provide advice to home owners on appropriate improvements and whether they qualify for funding.

Local Authority Delivery (LAD) Competition

Under the LAD scheme councils have until 1st September to bid for funding to improve the energy efficiency of low-income households in their areas. The LAD scheme targets low-income and low EPC rated homes (those in band E, F or G) including those living in the worst quality off-gas grid homes.

Funding must be targeted at households with a combined household annual low-income of no more than £30,000.  Funding is available for all tenure types (including landlords and social landlords) but must support the retrofit of existing domestic properties only.  Local authority applications are subject to a minimum bid of £500,000.  Consortium bids are allowed, and a lead LA should submit the proposal on behalf of the consortium.

£500m has been allocated to the LAD scheme, in two phases. This first phase consists of £200m to support low income households. £300m of funding will be included in a second phase to be allocated through Local Energy Hubs within 2020/21, to be released in due course for delivery by March 2022.

Local Authorities may use up to 15% of grant funding to administer and deliver the scheme including preparation of properties to facilitate energy efficiency upgrades.  As part of the monitoring and evaluation, LAs will be required to keep records of housing stock EPC ratings prior to and post-installation.

LAD cannot be combined with Green Homes Grant vouchers or blended with other government schemes such as RHI or ECO for the same individual measure.

For the LAD scheme it is a requirement for low carbon heat installers to be certified under Trustmark/Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) or equivalent, but it is not yet a requirement for contractors installing other measures to be Trustmark registered. However, bids using registered installers will score higher in the ‘Delivery Assurance’ assessment.

Projects under the next LAD delivery phase (£300m) for 2021/22 will be required to have Trustmark registered status.

How to apply

BEIS is inviting LAs to apply for funding from the 4th August to 12 noon on the 1st September 2020.  Funding will be allocated by the 28th September 2020 through grants.

The LAD application form can be accessed here.

On 6th August 2020 BEIS will host a webinar to launch the commissioning process. It is recommended that LAs attend this webinar which will outline the details of the competition, including recommended next steps for bidding LAs. This webinar will be repeated on the 10th August.

Private and Social Landlords

LAD Scheme – landlords eligible for funding (private and social) would provide at least 33% contribution towards the cost of the upgrades and the subsidy should not exceed £5,000 on average per household. This will form part of the ‘Value for Money’ assessment.

Voucher Scheme – Landlords of private rented sector domestic properties and landlords of social sector domestic properties (including LA owned homes) are eligible for the scheme except for the low-income voucher scheme which applies only to owner-occupied properties.

Conclusion

This grant funding is very welcome news and will help upgrade of a significant number of homes.

The North is home to a large number of older, colder homes – with 64% of existing housing in the North below Band C. This £2bn scheme must not be the limit of Government’s ambitions.

In particular, the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund promised in the Conservative Manifesto amounted to £3.8bn over 10 years. While the Summer Economic Statement made an initial allocation of £50m from that fund for a demonstrator project, we await further detail on this fund. The NHC is urging Government to open this fund at the earliest opportunity, enabling the North’s housing sector to create jobs and deliver on our shared net zero and levelling up ambitions.

NHC Contact: Karen Brown, Senior Policy Advisor

Karen.brown@northern-consortium.org.uk

0191 566 1000

 

 

Ward Hadaway Speed Read: The risk behind flexible tenancies 

Croydon LBC v Kalonga [2020] EWHC 1353 (QB)Tipples J

A flexible tenancy is a type secure tenancy that can be granted by a local authority to its tenants. They must be granted for a minimum fixed term of two years however, at the end of this term, a mandatory ground for possession arises.

Mrs Kalonga was a flexible tenant of Croydon London Borough Council. Her tenancy began in May 2015 and was granted for a fixed term of 5 years. During her tenancy, Croydon LBC became aware of a number of instances of anti-social behaviour committed by Mrs Kalonga and so sought to regain possession of the property prior to the end of the fixed term. The ground relied on was Ground 2 (Sch 2) of the Housing Act 1985, thus relating to her seemingly poor behaviour and the resultant nuisance caused to others.

This action taken by the landlord was contested by Mrs Kalonga on the basis that a flexible tenancy could only be terminated by forfeiture and that there was no forfeiture clause in her lease.

The claim had been issued in the County Court however, due to the high number of properties in the UK let on a flexible tenancy (around 30,000) and the fact that the majority of council’s did not include a forfeiture clause in such leases, the matter was elevated to the High Court.

The High Court found in Mrs Kalonga’s favour and dismissed the possession claim. It agreed that her tenancy could not be terminated in the absence of a forfeiture clause and so possession could not be sought before the end of the fixed term.

The case tells us that any landlord wanting to regain possession of a flexible tenancy before the end of the fixed term must be in a position to rely on forfeiture clause contained within the terms of the relevant tenancy – even if a tenant demonstrates anti-social behaviour. The absence of such a provision therefore awards a tenant with an exceptionally strong security of tenure during their fixed term. This decision will undoubtedly have negative repercussions for many tenancies in the UK.

In light of the above, local authorities should be fastidious in their inclusion of a forfeiture clause in all new flexible tenancies going forward. In some cases, it may be worthwhile exploring the options surrounding the variation of leases to mitigate future risk and look to regain vital control.

Mediaworks Unveils New Digital Experience for Home Group

Award-winning digital marketing agency, Mediaworks, has completed a year-long project with Home Group, the UK’s leading provider of high-quality housing, health, and social care to deliver a new digital experience.

The project set out to deliver accessible and personalised online content to Home Group’s customer groups, enabling them to quickly find the information they are looking for through online search and complete their transactions online.

At the heart of the project was the redesign and optimisation of their website,  www.homegroup.org.uk. It was developed in close consultation with the housing association’s customer groups to create an improved online experience.

Jo Hamilton, Head of Digital at Home Group, said: “This was a strategically-significant investment for Home Group. The project set out to relaunch our online experience to encourage our stakeholders to adopt our digital channels and prioritise high-volume enquiries so they could easily be found through online search and answered through an intuitive experience.

“Home Group works with various customer types, from tenants, to suppliers, to NHS commissioners. Core to this was reducing the workload of repetitive queries to our support teams so we could allow our people to focus more time on customers who are in greater need of help and support. Mediaworks is a fantastic partner to consult with. Their breadth of expertise and design with data approach allowed us to better guide our customers towards self-serve methods.”

Mediaworks was appointed by Home Group after a competitive tender process early last year. The project started with extensive user research to understand the website’s users, with focus groups conducted with key customer groups across the United Kingdom.

Brett Jacobson, Chief Executive Officer at Mediaworks, said: “It has been fantastic to work with Home Group on this project. They are a progressive organisation that has placed their customers at the heart of everything they do.

“One of the greatest hidden costs faced by many organisations is managing recurring queries. Helping your customers to quickly answer a question by simply typing it into their phone can save an organisation thousands of hours of support time and deliver a fantastic customer experience. When you’re a not-for-profit organisation, freeing up your people’s resource to give them a more dedicated focus to support vulnerable groups is more important than it ever has been.”

Other key features include personalisation tools which deliver user-specific content for visitors to the website dependent on where in the UK they logged on from. Improved navigation was also implemented to provide a more efficient service for both stakeholders and customers.

Mediaworks has continued to deliver digital solutions for the housing sector throughout 2020, partnering with Northern Housing Consortium and acquiring housing clients across the country, including Home Group and Believe Housing.

 

Northern Housing Consortium – 2020 Election of Directors

The Northern Housing Consortium represents the views of housing organisations in the North of England, with our membership of local and combined authorities, ALMOs and housing associations representing 96% of social housing in the North.  Our vision is to use our collective voice to have unrivalled influence in achieving housing policy that works for the North and provide outstanding services that support our members to create great places to live.

The overall management and strategic direction of the Northern Housing Consortium is entrusted to the Board of Directors who are subject to election each year from Full Member organisations.  Membership of the board is balanced between the three Northern regions and consideration is made of sectoral representation across different organisation types.

Under the Consortium’s governance arrangements, all nominations for the position of Director will be reviewed by the Board (or their nominated representatives), against a Skills Set for Directors to ensure that they meet the Board’s requirement to fill any vacancies – the Skills Set and Board Director Role Profile are enclosed in the Board Director Nomination Pack.

In accordance with a procedure agreed by the Board, we are seeking nominations for a total of two new Director places to be filled for the three-year period 2020-2023.

In addition, there are also four Directors who are retiring this year but who wish to stand for re-election as follows:

  1. Paul Fiddaman, Group Chief Executive, Karbon Homes
  2. Sarah Robson, Newcastle City Council
  3. Karen Lythe, Assistant Director Strategic Housing, Doncaster Council
  4. Tony Reeves, Chief Executive, Liverpool City Council (previously co-opted to fill a casual vacancy on 24th April 2020)

NB The Board have confirmed their support for the re-election of the above candidates.

Should the number of successful nominations exceed the vacancies available, a ballot will be arranged and the results announced for formal approval by the Full Members at the Consortium’s Annual General Meeting on 19th November 2020.

A nomination form is included in the Nomination Pack, and I invite you to consider and make nominations of candidates no later than 1st September 2020.  Please note that you can nominate more than one candidate but in doing so, you should note the conditions for nominating candidates included in the Nomination Pack.

An application form can be obtained from kay.wiseman@northern-consortium.org.uk This must be completed by the nominee and returned with the nomination form no later than 1st September 2020.

If you would like to discuss your nomination for the position of Director, please contact:-

Tracy Harrison

Chief Executive

T: 07809659492

E: tracy.harrison@northern-consortium.org.uk